The sizzling New England Patriots looks for their eighth straight win when they host NFC powerhouse San Francisco in a battle royale on Sunday night. The Patriots continue to knock off challengers with ease while steadily climbing the ladder in the AFC standings. Once 1-2 on the season, New England looks to gain the top seed in the AFC to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. After embarrassing Houston on Monday night, it stamped itself as the best team in the conference.
The 49ers have been a bit inconsistent since inserting the speedy Colin Kaepernick under center. Kaepernick, who is 3-1 as a starter since replacing Alex Smith at quarterback, sealed last week's 27-13 win over Miami with a 50-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. RB Frank Gore, who went over the 1,000-yard mark in the game, continues to provide San Francisco with balance on offense but it’s clearly the Niners’ defense which makes them a Super Bowl threat. That unit ranks second in the NFL in total defense.
TV: 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC. LINE: Patriots -5.5, O/U 46.5
ABOUT THE 49ERS (9-3-1): Expect San Francisco to try to control the ball against the Patriots, who are the runaway leader in the NFL with 475 points scored. That could mean a big workload for Gore, who tied Roger Craig and Joe Perry for the franchise mark with his 50th career rushing touchdown last week. The 49ers rank second in the NFL in rushing, averaging over 160 yards a game on the ground, to take a lot of the pressure off the shoulders of Kaepernick. A week after Kaepernick struggled in a 16-13 overtime loss at St. Louis, the second-year pro went for 18-for-23 with a 100.2 passer rating. Aldon Smith continues to be a menace on defense and set the team mark with two more sacks against the Dolphins to give him 19.5 on the season.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (10-3): Tom Brady picked apart Houston last week, throwing four more touchdown passes, and stamped himself as the leader in the MVP race. Brady is tied for the NFL lead in passer rating and threw a pair of TD passes to tight end Aaron Hernandez, whose immense talent has allowed tight end Rob Gronkowski to recover from a broken forearm at his own pace. New England humiliated the Texans, who before the game labeled it as the biggest game in their franchise’s history. The Patriots, who are accustomed to playing big games, raced out to a 21-0 lead on the way to a 42-14 romp. New England continues to roll through the second half of recent seasons. The three-time Super Bowl champs have won 20 straight games at home in December.
1. San Francisco is 4-2 on the road. New England is 5-1 at home.
2. Brady has 29 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season. He has thrown a TD pass in 45 straight games, the third-longest streak in history.
3. The 49ers suspended little-used RB Brandon Jacobs for the rest of the season.
PREDICTION: 49ers 24, Patriots 21
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